Competition in Silicon Valley was fierce, and high security at Bassadia, inevitable. Key engineers and programmers were kept sequestered in the smoke glass building kitty corner to the sales and marketing division, entrance accessible only by a code changed periodically.
Willard Waites glanced at his stained Swatch watch and cursed under his breath. It was five to eight. He reached for his clipboard and scuttled out of his messy office, knocking a swivel chair over in the process. The thud momentarily overrode the low hum of the computer screens illuminating the Research and Development facilities.
“Hurry up, Romeo, or you’ll miss the Ice Princess!”
Willy flipped his spotty programmer friend the finger and pretended to go pick up some random files in the Consumer Electronics building across the street as he set eyes on the newcomer.
Victoire was punctual as she was fastidious. Adhering to routines put her in control leaving little room for the unexpected. Dressed from head-to-toe in brown, the socially inept wunderkind scurried towards passed her in the reception area without a second thought
“Hey, how is it going Willy asked as he passed her in the lobby.
“Hi,” she replied mechanically. She had no idea who he was and pegged him as one of many Bassadai geeks.
# # # #
The sophisticated international sales and marketing manager enjoyed the challenge, salary, first class travel and company perks. But Victoire wasn’t planning to earn a living too long. The work experience at Bassadai exposed her to the rigours of climbing the entrepreneurial ladder and the first-hand smell of ferocity from the cutthroat rivalry within the corridors. Like mother like daughter, Victoire embraced the motto ‘Girls who wear sensible heels pay for their meals’.
Unfortunately, Bassadai was a subsidiary of Electra Inc. Had there been a Mr. Bassadai, preferable under forty-five and reasonably attractive, she would have already eaten him for breakfast and hyphenated his last name to hers.
Three years into the game, Victoire was poised to pounce on and to exploit the fruit of somebody else’s labour.
San Francisco felt positively plebeian to cosmopolitan Victoire, more cowboys than a spaghetti western. High society fit in a thimble, the ratio of straight men to women ran in the deficit column and the array of cultural events had the consistency of skim milk.
But Victoire was a long-range planner like her mother who was on her third very rich marital catch. She had chosen San Francisco over Budapest where her father had been assigned for obvious reasons: there were more—and wealthier—fish in the bay waters than on that twist of the Danube.
# # # #
Victoire went through her closet looking uninspired. Her mother insisted she accept another invitation from Gordon Greenberg, an up and coming doctor on the look out for a wife.
The clock’s hand pointed to six-thirty, but Victoire felt in no hurry. She settled on a smart little black dress and silver heels for the occasion. Elegant but not too sexy, she thought, focusing for a moment on her partner for the evening ahead.
Cigarette smoke trailed up nose, and she bit her lip.
“Mais alors ,vite, chérie,” her mother urged from the half open door. “Gordon is collecting us in less than twenty minutes, and you’re still not dressed. It’s such an honour that he is inviting us all tonight, you should be over the moon.”
Guidance, she welcomed; persistence, she loathed. “Maman,” Victoire explained, “Gordon is a smart guy, but not my cup of tea.”
“Dr. Gordon Greenberg is not smart, he’s an eminence in his field,” she corrected before taking another deep puff of her lipstick stained cigarette, “and a catch any single woman in the bay area would kill for. You act as if it was a chore to be with the man.” She flicked ashes into an empty glass. “Gordon’s the youngest, most gifted neurosurgeon UC-Cal has ever seen!’ She sucked in more nicotine and pursed her lips. Smoke flushed from her nostrils like a dragon. “What is your problem?”
Victoire frowned. First off, the brain surgeon could have passed for the twin of Henry VIII and had hair that resembled a Brillo pad. Besides, hospital talk bored her to tears, and she felt she could reach much, much higher.
“You’re right. Gordon is not a catch but the catch,” she assuaged her mother, “but the fortunes being made right now in consumer electronics are mind boggling. Just read the Financial Times or the San Francisco Chronicle.”
Her mother was about to fire a retort but couldn’t argue the point. Bassadai and its two competitors popped up in the news left and right. Still, Vivienne wasn’t about to let a marital catch like Gordon pass undetected. “I was already married at eighteen; I had you at twenty. By the time I was twenty-five, your age-”
“Twenty-four,” cut in her daughter.
“Whatever. View Gordon as a stepping-stone, then, but get moving. You’ve been stuck in Silicon Valley long enough, and you’ve yet to make a wise move.” She puffed one last time then slowly twirled the lipstick stained butt until the embers suffocated. “Honestly Victoire, could it be you are losing your edge?”
“It’s a new dawn it’s a new day, maman. People don’t get married that young any more.” She slipped into her coat and flicked her hair into place. “I won’t rush into things until I’ve scoured the possibilities. Trust me.”
Vivienne shrugged her shoulders. “Promise me you’ll give him a serious thought.” She air-kissed her daughter’s forehead then took hold of her chin. “Remember, ma petite, you’re not getting any younger.”
Victoire bit her tongue, adjusted her drop earrings in the mirror and looked back with approval. “I’ve got my eye on two very worthy prospects,” she parried smugly, linking her arm through the older, brunette version of herself.
But that was a lie. One of the two names in her diary had already been crossed out. Another woman had already reeled in Apple Computer’s co-founder, Steve Jobs.
But the other primary target was the most physically attractive of all. His name was Dr. Artemis Allen, chief scientist at Bassadai. As official captain of the brain pool, Dr. Allen held sway over Bassadai’s present and future steps.
Recently divorced and thirty-six years old, he measured five foot eleven and was of medium build. His eyes matched his chocolate brown, longish hair; his deep dimples were not lost of Victoire. Disappointingly, his work uniform consisted of baggy khakis, crew neck sweaters and scuffed loafers whether behind his desk or presenting to the big boys from Electra. But that could be easily fixed.
The man’s approximate net worth, garnered by a loose tongue in personnel was half a million base salary with fat stock options and millions more in bonuses as new products made their way to market.
Access to the low-key guru, however, was not that simple because their jobs were in no way related. He was within a two-minute walk from her office, and she made up every excuse imaginable to venture his way. If he was not at his desk, she made an effort to schmooze with the programmers knowing they would come in very handy. One of these was Willy Waites.
The twenty-five-year-old came from a middle-class family of St. Paul, Minnesota. Outside of his parents, Willy’s respect and awe went to Dr. Allen.
Artemis knew this and appreciated it. In return, he enjoyed the camaraderie amongst his young team and socialized with them when possible.
Willy’s amorous fantasies had but one face, Victoire’s, who had taken up the habit of making the rounds in the R&D wing in her pursuit of his boss, Artemis.